PGA Tour events come in many different varieties. There are invitationals, team events and even alternate events. The Barbasol Championship is an example of the latter. It takes place every year at the same time as the Open Championship, providing a chance for players who have not qualified for the Open to remain competitive and potentially become a PGA Tour winner.
Although the prize money and ranking points aren’t at the same level as other tournaments, the Barbasol Championship is a bona fide PGA Tour event with the winner earning a place at the PGA Championship and a two year exemption. Competition for all alternate events is incredibly high as they provide players with a chance to genuinely change their lives. They give lesser golfers a chance to enjoy their moment in the spotlight and potentially move onto bigger and better events.
|2021||Keene Trace Golf Club||Seamus Power|
|2019||Keene Trace Golf Club||Jim Herman|
|2018||Keene Trace Golf Club||Troy Merritt|
|2017||Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail||Grayson Murray|
2021: Seamus Power
The sole European major taking place thousands of miles away may have taken most of the attention away from the Barbasol Championship but it was a European golfer who outlasted the competition in Kentucky. Seamus Power cared not a jot that his maiden PGA Tour win came in an alternate event, summing up a long Sunday as, “an incredible day.”
It was also an incredibly long day for Power and 54-hole leader JT Poston. While Poston was in pole position for the win, Power kept applying the pressure and it eventually told in the closing stages. A three-shot advantage evaporated for Poston in the final four holes of regular play which set up a playoff as the two men were tied on -21. It would have been easy for the disappointment to overwhelm Poston but to his great credit, he gathered himself and made a real fist of the playoff. The two men were locked together through five extra holes before, once again, Power’s pressure proved to be too much on the sixth playoff hole.
A birdie got on his 72nd hole got Power into the playoff but a par on his 78th hole of the tournament was enough for the win after Poston cracked and made a mistake. “This changes everything for me,” Power said afterwards as the enormity of the win began to dawn on the 34 year old Irishman.
The 2020 tournament was cancelled.
2019: Jim Herman
The first edition of the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club suggested that a players’ ability from tee to green is what would separate the contenders from the rest of the pack. That proved to be the case one year on with four of the top five ranked players for strokes gained from tee to green finishing inside the top six. Jim Herman was one of those players to have a very good week from tee to green but it was his putting that really stood out and his ability to convert his many chances proved decisive as he earned his second PGA Tour win.
Other similarities with the 2019 Barbasol Championship and the previous year’s tournament was the requirement for players to go seriously low. Herman’s winning score of -26 was a new tournament record but he was chased down by Kelly Kraft who finished just one shot shy of forcing a playoff. Indeed, Kraft made a late bogey or else he would have gone toe for toe with Herman right to the 72nd hole.
Speaking after the round, Herman credited President Donald Trump for his tremendous putting. The two have been regular golfing partners since Herman was assistant professional at Trump National Golf Club and on a round shortly before the Barbasol Championship Trump reportedly advised Herman to change to the style of putter and grip which worked so well in Kentucky. It is a funny old world!
2018: Troy Merritt
Grayson Murray won the 2017 Barbasol Championship with a score of -21 and the change in venues to Keene Trace Golf Club made no difference to the low scoring associated with the tournament. -21 was only good enough for fifth place in this year’s edition as Troy Merritt sealed the win with a score of -23 which was just one shot better than each of Billy Horschel, Troy Lovelady and Richy Werenski.
For Merritt, this was a hugely impactful win. The American had considered stepping away from the professional ranks after he failed to kick on from his maiden PGA Tour win at the Quicken Loans National. This was justification that he had the game to make a good career for himself on the PGA Tour and gave him job security for the next two seasons, something that mean a huge amount to players trying to make their way.
The headlines for Merritt’s win focused on the clutch putts that he made when the pressure was really on and the way he was able to retain his concentration despite weather delays which forced the 2018 Barbasol Championship into a Monday finish. However, the stats show that he was in complete control of his game. He gained more strokes than the field from tee to green and with his approach play and actually lost ground on the greens. Merritt was clearly delighted with his game but didn’t care how he won, as long as he could lift the trophy and take home the winner’s cheque.
2017: Grayson Murray
While Jordan Spieth was busy endearing himself to yet more golf fans with his superb Open victory at Royal Birkdale, an altogether less popular player was earning what he hoped would be a life changing win at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Grayson Murray’s behaviour both on and off the golf course, and most specifically on Twitter, has not won him many fans in the sport but the supremely talented 23-year-old cares not a jot and is more than happy to plough his own furrow if it results in more wins like this.
Alternate events like the Barbasol Championship are almost tailor made for rookie golfers like Murray. His number one goal for his maiden season on the PGA Tour was to haul himself into the winner’s circle and that’s exactly what he did, albeit by the slimmest of margins.
A gritty round of 68 on Sunday was enough for Murray to edge out Chad Collins by one shot. Grit and determination was just one element of his game though. The sheer ability that Murray possesses was clear on Friday and Saturday when he shot back to back rounds of 64 to take the tournament by the scruff of the neck. Still, he did need a bit of help form the unfortunate Tag Ridings who led before a double bogey on the par five 16th hole made the tournament Murray’s to lose.